One thing we do a lot of in business school is think about business plans. We think about a company’s background and research the sector. We perform financial analyses and evaluate potential outcomes. We speak extensively with customers about our product and spend hours with lawyers thinking about liabilities. We quantify risks, do competitive analyses, and calculate profit using different sets of assumptions. But I can’t help but wonder … how useful are these business plans?
In some ways, business plans can be extremely useful. Sometimes need them to apply for funding. You often need them to clarify your thoughts when things become more complex. And you nearly always need them to remember the most nuanced parts of your business idea.
On the other hand, nobody really requires them. You don’t need them to run a business. VC’s hardly ever ask for them. And customers could care less if you had one.
I propose the idea that mission statements are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than business plans. Missions keep you up late when everyone else is sleeping. Missions keep you focused when you are surrounded by chaos. Missions are what bring game-changing employees on board. And sometimes you can win a customer with a terrible product but with a beautiful mission. Plans don’t do any of those things.
So while you’re staying up all night wondering how to finish parts of your business plan, just remember your mission. In fact, write in your mission first, print it out, put it next to you and then memorize it. It’s the only way you’ll do great work.